Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Aid Agencies Prepare to Tackle Desperate Situation in Liberia

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Aid Agencies Prepare to Tackle Desperate Situation in Liberia

Article excerpt

International aid workers are stepping up programmes in Liberia following the ousting of president Charles Taylor, but the humanitarian situation throughout the war-torn country remains desperate.

Taylor finally headed into exile in Nigeria on 11 August following weeks of intense international pressure.

Debbie Baglole, health advisor to the UK medical charity MERLIN, told the Bulletin: "The next few weeks will be critical. We want to be optimistic but we don't expect there to be calm throughout the country immediately." Aid agencies are now (13 August) preparing to move into the rest of Liberia.

"The situation inside Monrovia is bad but it is bound to be a lot worse in the rest of the country where there has been no access to any health services in the past weeks of the fighting," said Debbie Baglole. "There are a lot of trauma victims in the rest of the country and people are likely to be exhausted and malnourished."

Aid agencies are describing the humanitarian crisis in Monrovia as acute. Three attacks on the capital by the LURE) rebels since June trapped 250 000 people who had sought refuge in the city. They are living next to rivers of sewage and infestations of maggots. Drinking-water supplies have run out in most parts of the capital. Diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and malaria have already claimed many lives.

"The situation is desperate," said Wubeshet Woldemariam, country director of the International Rescue Committee, which has two clinics in the capital. "More than 40% of the Liberians seeking IRC health services have malaria and our clinics are seeing a sharp increase of cases of diarrhoea and cholera."

In addition there are severe food shortages. …

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